The West Baltimore RICH Collaborative (Reducing Isolation and Inequities in Cardiovascular Health) received $2.4 million with the help of Sen. Antonio Hayes and the Maryland Health Equity Resource Act to spread awareness on the health disparities in West Baltimore and surrounding areas. (Courtesy Photo)

By Beverly Richards,
Special to the AFRO

The West Baltimore RICH Collaborative (Reducing Isolation and Inequities in Cardiovascular Health), a consortia led by the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Nursing recently received $2.4 million from the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission. The RICH Collaborative is comprised of community and faith-based organizations, academia, hospitals and hospital-related entities all aiming to address health disparities, expand access to health services, and improve health outcomes for over 6,000 people in the 21201, 21217, 21223 and 21229 zip codes.

“There is an increased risk for heart disease and stroke in West Baltimore. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases the risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. And often, people are isolated from individuals and the community— and from the resources they need. This program is going to connect people to the assistance they need,” said Yolanda Ogbolu, Ph.D., CRNP-Neonatal, FNAP, FAAN.

The money was made possible under and builds on the commitment of SB0172/HB0463 the Maryland Health Equity Resource Act. The bill was sponsored by Senator Antonio Hayes (D-MD-40) and Delegate Erek Barron (D-MD-24). The bill establishes a Health Equity Resource Communities program to reduce health disparities. 

“I recognize the challenges that we have here in West Baltimore and many communities throughout the state in dealing with health equities. And we built this coalition of hundreds of organizations to really get this legislation passed. And it is very few times in your legislative career where you have victories like this,” said state Sen. Antonio L. Hayes.

“And this is one that I’m most proud of,” he continued. “All Marylanders deserve access to high quality, affordable healthcare. People with chronic conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, asthma, diabetes, substance abuse and mental health disorders have worse health outcomes and are less able to get the care and treatment they need.” 

While  the project’s main goal is to reduce hypertension, the effect of social isolation is just as prevalent. 

“I’m so glad that the University of Maryland looked at the issues around cardiovascular disease and isolation, because if nothing else, COVID-19 has shown us that this is a huge disparity that has been exacerbated over this period,” said Hayes.

Key interventions include establishing a learning cooperative, using nurse managed health centers, leveraging mobile health care, and augmenting care using a community health worker model. 

“Community health workers and engaged community members are instrumental to what we are trying to accomplish. They know the community and their presence will help to build trusting relationships and results,” said Dr. Ogbolu.

Community Health Workers will help clients reduce their blood pressure, through check-ups, education, goal setting, and lifestyle modifications and connect them to social and support services. 

Clarence Giles, a West Baltimore resident talked about how the University of Maryland Community Engagement Center helped him after he was diagnosed with diabetes four months ago. “They call me every week to check on me, see how I’m doing, how I’m feeling, and if I need anything.”

“Residents will also get assistance with housing, food and transportation,” said Ogbolu.

Help us Continue to tell OUR Story and join the AFRO family as a member – subscribers are now members!  Join here!